If Ye Break Faith

This blog is dedicated to the promotion of educating about the Canadian experience of World War One. To discover who we are as a nation in the 21st Century, we must understand our past.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Remembrance Week Special Collection: Pte JTC Bowerbank

It's with great pleasure that "If Ye Break Faith" begins its first Remembrance Week Special Collection.  Over the next five days, we will present an essay written by a high school student from Oakville, Ontario telling the story of a soldier of the Canadian Expeditionary Force who was killed on Active Service during the First World War.  Today's essay is on Pte JTC Bowerbank, written by Julia Barber.  

Remembrance Day-Poppy Day
By *daliscar
We would also like your input to help us close the week out, and are planning to have a very special post on Sunday, featuring reader submitted stories about veterans in their lives.  Send your remembrances to ifyebreakfaith@gmail.com before Friday, 11 November for consideration of inclusion.  As always, you can keep up to date with all the latest news and developments by following us on Twitter and Facebook.

The writer of "Antiquated Canada", a fellow history blogger forwarded me a post from her site featuring the profile of a Canadian WWI soldier, killed in Palestine in 1917.  It's a great piece of work, and I promised to link to it : Antiquated Canada: Lt. Clark.  

We would also like to mention thegreatwar1914-1918.  The site is dedicated to providing information and memorabilia concerning the great war, for private collectors as well as educators.  There's a wide range of products available, and our Project Director can attest that they are responsive to customer concerns.

Jack Telfer Conway Bowerbank, Private
116th Battalion, Ontario County
9th Infantry Brigade, 3rd Canadian Division
Canadian Expeditionary Force

Jack Telfer Conway Bowerbank, a previous Oakville High School student was only 21 years old when he gave up his everyday life to fight for our country.

Personal Information: Jack Bowerbank was born on February 23rd, 1894 in Brampton, Ontario, Canada. Later he moved with his family to 60 Oak Ave. Hamilton, Ontario, Canada after living in Oakville for a few years.   Jack was the fourth child in a family of six children to Thomas Ion Bowerbank and Lydia Buszard. He never married and did not have any children. He belonged to the Methodist faith.
Jack Bowerbank had five siblings.  Out of all the siblings, Ernest, Harry, Jack and Frank all went to war. However, Ernest and Jack never returned.

On November 5th, 1915, Jack enlisted in Hamilton, Ontario. He was considered fit for the Canadian Over‐Seas Expeditionary Force. There are no pictures of Jack but his physical description said he had blue eyes, dark brown hair and a shallow face. He was also five feet four inches and had a few distinctive markings. For example, his 2nd and 3rd toes on both feet were partly webbed and he had a brown mole four inches above the right knee on the outside. Prior to war, he attended a high school that was called Oakville High School, known today as Oakville Trafalgar High School. He also played the clarinet for several years in the Oakville Band.

Military Movements: Jack Telfer Bowerbank was a member of the 3rd Canadian Division, 116th Battalion (Ontario County), 9th Infantry Brigade, and he was a private for his entire duration of service. When it was time for Jack to travel to England, he travelled on the Empress of Britain and arrived on the 23rd of August, 1916. For the training that Jack went through, he trained in Uxbridge, England all winter long.  As part of the final training the Battalion marched in May from Sunderland to Uxbridge where they were greeted along the way.  As the war progressed, soldiers were trained more quickly and shipped to England at a quicker pace as relief was needed for the troops fighting in France. Leading up to when Jack was on the fields in France, he was taken on and struck of strength a couple of times. That means he was transferred from unit to unit.  Jack started with the 120th Battalion until he was struck off strength on the 2nd of February, 1917 in Bramshott.   He was taken on strength from the 120th Battalion to the 2nd Reserve Battalion on the 4th of February, 1917 in Bramshott.  Later on May 18th, 1917 he was taken on strength by the 116th Battalion in the field. Lastly, he was struck off strength on the 22nd of August, 1917 when he was reported missing after action on the 23rd of July, 1917.

Service in France: Jack Bowerbank left England for France on May 18, 1917. He arrived after the battle of Vimy Ridge and died before the battle of Passchendaele, so he did not participate in any major battles. However, his battalion was active during the war.

The 116th Battalion was organized on December 22, 1915 with 943 men. It did not disband till September 15, 1920. The battalion is now remembered for serving in France and Flanders with the 9th Infantry Brigade of the 3rd Canadian Division.  The 116th Battalion came to France during the Spring Offensive in 1917, to replace the 60th Battalion. However, both the 116th and the 60th were at Vimy in April, 1917.  This Infantry Battalion was an active unit after taking over from the 60th Battalion and continued this role all the way to the Armistice in November 1918. Nicknamed the “Umpty Umps” the Battalion distinguished themselves in Vimy, Passchendaele, Cambrai and Mons. Lastly, this battalion was assigned the final task of guarding the Brussels‐Mons Road from unauthorized passengers.
May, 1917: Starting from when Jack arrived after May 18th, 1917, the battalion was busy with relief on May 20th. From May 21st to May 23rd, the Battalion was patrolling on the front but did not encounter any enemies. At this time they were located on Vimy where the enemy artillery was very active. They were also busy building new communication trenches and destroying enemy wire and trenches. On May 24th, they had a 15 minute barrage on the left line at 4:30a.m.; however, it was expected and the enemy artillery was very active at the Vimy Railway Station. It wason the 24th  that the 116th Battalion moved to the Vimy‐Lievin Line and Headquarters. For the next few days, the enemy artillery was active using gas and firing until May 27th, when they fell silent. On May 28th, the enemy bombarded at 1:15a.m. over the right flank and raided Canadian trenches but this did not last long and the 116th Battalion was soon relieved at the Vimy‐Lievin Line by the 4th C.M.R. (Canadian Mounted Rifles) Battalion. For the rest of the month, the 116th Battalion worked on roads, tramways and buried cables.
June, 1917: For the first half of June, the battalion was busy training and advancing. On June 14th, the 116th Battalion moved from Torton to relieve the P.P.C.L.I (Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry) on the right sub sector of the front line. It was after more days of planning that the sketches were drawn on June 17th to take the enemy trenches the next day. However, the next few days were spent moving to Villers au Bois and practicing the attack over the top of the trenches during the day. It was not until June 25th that orders were issued for attack and capture of the enemy trenches on Divisional Front at 2:30a.m. Following, they captured a trench where they took 23 prisoners. To close this month, they moved in to support the Red Line on June 30th.

The Final Days ‐ July, 1917: Starting on July 2nd, all units moved to Quarries Area and then to Chateau Delamare Area where the 116th Battalion went to St Lawrence Camp.  On July 11th, the 116th Battalion went to relieve the 2nd  Battalion C.M.R. (Canadian Mounted Rifles) in the Coburg dugouts. The following day, they planned a raid on enemy trenches to the South east of Fasse. However, when the 116th Battalion went for the raid, they were moved back to be near the top of the trenches. The next few days involved raids in the evenings and practicing during the day at taped trenches. On July 17th, the 3rd Canadian Division got the orders to carry out operations as planned. The 116th Battalion relieved the 5th CMR Battalion in the Red Trench. Following on July 19thand 20th, the artillery was busy cutting wire in front of Metal Trench and the patrols were active during night. For the next few days leading up to the 23rd of July, the patrols and artillery were active cutting and finding wire.

July 23rd, 1917 – Last day of Battle: It was on July 23rd, that the 116th Battalion raided enemy’s trenches at 1a.m. The operation was successful and 53 prisoners of the 61st R.I.R. (Reserve Infantry Regiment), 36th Reserve Division were captured.  Machine guns and trench mortars were captured but had to be destroyed as it was impossible to get them back. All dugouts in Metal Trench and Railway Embankment were destroyed, resulting in numerous enemy casualties.  

Standing patrols were left in the captured trenches by orders from the 3rd Canadian Division. Following at 4:45a.m., the Germans counteracted from both flanks, putting down a heavy barrage. It was at this time that the standing patrols went missing.  At 12:05p.m., while our troops were assembling, the enemy put over gas shells and caused some more casualties for us. This also made the operation much more difficult than originally planned. The total casualties were around ninety, one of whom is presumed to be Jack Telfer Conway Bowerbank. However, the artillery barrages were faultless and they responded to the SOS very quickly. It was then reported of the efforts by the 116th Battalion and intelligence summary of the raid. Following, wires of congratulation were received by the General Officer commanding from the Commander‐in‐Chief and from General Byng commanding the Third Army. At the end of the raid, one company of the 116th Battalion was placed under orders of the 52nd Battalion for the remainder of the tour.

The efforts put forth by this battalion were greatly appreciated as seen from this extract of text from 1917. “The assault was delivered at 1:00 a.m. on 23 July by the 116th Battalion (of the 9th Infantry Brigade). In spite of a gas attack launched by the enemy just as our troops were forming up, the operation, adequately supported by the divisional artillery, was completely successful. The 116th quickly took the trench that formed its first objective, killing many Germans. In solid hand‐to‐hand fighting the attacking companies gained the railway embankment and blew up a number of dugouts and a tunnel. After thirty‐five minutes the main body returned to its original position as planned, leaving outposts who subsequently came under a heavy counter‐attack and had to be withdrawn. The Canadian battalion, whose own casualties numbered 74, brought back

53 prisoners from the 36th Reserve Division, one of a number of formations that had been transferred from the Eastern Front earlier in the summer.”1

Jack Telfer Bowerbank was presumed dead on July 23rd, 1917. During this day, his battalion was involved in a raid into the enemy’s trenches at 1a.m. This operation was successful, and the 116th battalion was given a lot of praise for their attack. However, the Germans counterattacked on both flanks by putting down a heavy barrage. During this procedure the standing patrols went missing. After this event the Germans then put over gas shells at 12:05pm while the troops were assembling. This caused around ninety casualties, one of which is presumed to be Jack.

Lest we Forget: Jack did not have a will or bank statements that were mentioned prior to death. When he died, however, his notification went to his mother Lydia Bowerbank and his father Thomas Bowerbank who lived in Hamilton, Ontario at this time.  The Cross of Sacrifice was sent to his mother and his medals and decorations, plaques and scrolls went to his father. From serving in the First World War, Jack received the British War and Victory Medal.  While Jack was serving overseas, he sent fifteen dollars a month to his mother from August 1, 1916 to August 25, 1917.

 Jack lost his life at the age of 23 years old. After Jack died, his death was mentioned in a newspaper from the Halton Area. The origin of the article is not specific but it could have come from newspapers like the Toronto Star, The Oakville Record or The Canadian Champion (from Milton). His name also now appears on many memorials as he does not have a known grave. His name appears on the famous Vimy Memorial, in France.

By Julia Barber

1 Laughton, Richard. 116th Battalion. 3 July 2008. 11 Apr. 2009.

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